Great Outdoors: Looking for a needle in the haystack
Sportsmen helping each other, and friends helping friends, is really what the outdoors experience is all about.
I enjoy writing about the adventures of sportsmen (both men and women) who participate in the time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing.
Sure, not everyone who reads this column goes hunting or fishing, but a heck of a lot of local citizens do. Kingman has a long and storied history of our residents who hunt and fish. In the 1970s when I moved to Kingman, schools were closed on the opening weekend of the deer season. The reason was simple: almost all of the families in this community were in the outdoors.
Now times have started to change. People have moved into the county from other states and they want to stop hunting altogether. They can hide behind a computer keyboard and make negative remarks about a sport that is the passion of so many local citizens.
However, currently the tradition lives on, and this week I’m going to start a series about the adventures of a 78-year-old lady from Kingman who is currently participating in one the toughest hunts that any sportsmen or women can go on.
The hunt that Jennifer Chambers and her friends are doing, even as you read this, is for desert bighorn sheep. After 32 years of applying, Jennifer drew the only tag that was issued this year in Unit 15C North. This game management unit borders Highway 93 on the east, Cottonwood Road to the south and the mighty Colorado River on the west.
While this used to be arguably the best sheep unit in Arizona, pneumonia that was spread by an infected ram that swam across the Colorado River led to the decimation of one of the state’s most prized and sought-after big game animals.
There are still rams in the unit, and according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which is in charge of managing these magnificent animals, there are enough of them to warrant a single tag being issued for that unit.
And this year, Jennifer drew that tag.
Jennifer and her late husband Gene have been longtime sportsmen in Mohave County. Gene got one of two sheep tags that were issued for the western part of Mohave County in 1979.
That started a passion for Gene and Jennifer, who have gone on many sheep hunts in Mohave County in the past.
When Gene was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he asked me privately if I would do him a favor. He asked that when and if Jennifer drew a sheep tag if I would ask our friends to help take her out. Of course, I said yes. Gene passed away in 2017.
This isn’t a guided sheep hunt for me. It is fulfilling a promise to my friend and there are sportsmen who are helping that have never met Gene or Jennifer!
But it is what we do for our friends and fellow sportsmen.
So far it has been a really tough hunt for all of us.
A number of us have been out in the field, including Dan Reed, Jay Chan, Gary Martin and Marc Schwartzkopf. Phoenix residents Glen Leon and Rick Thompson came up to help glass for these elusive animals.
We have seen just 10 sheep, all ewes and yearlings so far. We haven’t seen even one ram, young or old, and we have been all over the unit.
Sheep hunting is never an easy proposition, but in his case, it is far more than that. This hunt for a ram is correctly described as a “Needle in a Haystack.”